Army: Enemy fire caused copter collision in Iraq

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FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) -- The military now says enemy fire caused two U.S. Army helicopters to collide in Iraq last month, killing four American pilots.

The Defense Department initially had said the crashes of the two aircraft Jan. 26 near Kirkuk didn't appear to have been caused by an attack. But on Thursday, the Army said that evidence revealed that the Kiowa Warrior helicopters, each with a two-man crew, had collided while trying to evade enemy fire.

"The two OH-58D helicopters were engaged and struck by hostile fire while conducting a reconnaissance mission," Fort Drum spokeswoman Julie Cupernall said Friday.

The investigation continues, Cupernall said. A Sunni nationalist group had claimed responsibility for the helicopter attack in a posting on an extremist Web site.

The Army report was released after a memorial service for the soldiers at Fort Drum, where they were based.

The pilots were identified as Philip Windorski Jr., 35, of Bovey, Minn.; Matthew Kelley, 30, of Cameron, Mo.; Joshua Tillery, 31, of Beaverton, Ore.; and Benjamin Todd, 29, of Colville, Wash. They were warrant officers in the 10th Mountain Division's 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.

A ceremony honoring the pilots was held Thursday evening at Fort Drum, with family members and fellow soldiers sharing memories of the men. All four pilots were married and had children.

The two-seat Kiowa Warrior helicopters are used primarily for observation and scouting missions. They can be armed with missiles and machine guns, and are typically flown close to the ground at speeds topping 100 mph.

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